Touched by loss. Empowered through community.

Defense Mode

Monday, May 15, 2017
Posted By: 

Defense Mode

We all hear it at one time or another – someone will tell us to “move on, start dating, get out there, you’re young, you don’t want to be alone.”  For me, it is often my Mom!

Regardless who it is, societal pressure pushes us to replace the person we lost. Most of us say, ummm…not so fast, people!  We need more time to figure out what just happened, to pull ourselves up from the calamity of grief and figure how to do this unchosen thing called widowhood. We need to make sure our children are ok before worrying about ourselves. We also need to figure out how to get through each day with this permanent hollowness in our hearts. We need to figure out how to keep all the plates spinning, and we need to do it by ourselves, first.

When we do finally make some progress, society grabs onto it and makes new assumptions, and brings our past soaring right into the present.    

Over spring break, we went on a Caribbean cruise. It was me, two of my daughters, and the man I have been dating.  We looked past the nightly comments from the wait staff about “such a beautiful family” and how “Dad” should lock up these teenage girls because the boys are going to be after them, etc. We have been getting used to those – we get them a lot when we go out to dinner together. It’s easy for complete strangers to assume we are a stereotypical American family, married with two kids.  Our reality is different. 

On our recent vacation, some of the questions and comments were a little harder to shrug off, such as this one:

“How long have you two been married?”

Now reality hits us and playing along doesn’t work anymore. So we laugh and try to give a comical answer of “Oh, we’re not married! That’s why we’re so happy!” But the questions continue, “aren’t those your daughters?” Now I have to clarify, “yes, they’re MY daughters”. As I start to go into defense mode, my friend jokes about how he ‘found us on e-bay’. It’s a light approach to get folks to back off, but never seems to work.  So the assumptions start. “Oh, so you’re divorced?”

Now I feel cornered. I should have more composure, more tact, but I don’t. You want the whole story? Well here it comes and I bet you’re not ready for it. So, I proceed to explain that my husband passed away 5 years ago from a long battle with colon cancer. This is my friend, who was my husband’s best friend while he was alive. As I feel I have to explain ‘him’ too.  

This man has become a big part of my life and my daughter’s lives. We aren’t married. Maybe one day.  For now, we are enjoying being together. I am grateful for him in my life and for the time we have been given. I know very well how lives can change without our permission.  

Thank you complete stranger, for allowing me to disclose my most personal information with you whom I will never see again in my life.  Thanks for reminding me that I said goodbye to my awesome husband five years ago, at the funeral home.  Thank you for reminding me of the countless MRI’s, surgeries, chemotherapy, radiation, home health nurses, hospitals and hospice. Thank you for bringing the past right back into the present, while I watched my children zone in to hear how I was answering all of your questions.  

Thank you also for reminding me that this man I am with is not the father of my children. He never will be. But, right now, I am appreciative that he is the rock by my side through this daily thing called life. He has lovingly participated in my children’s lives despite all of the challenges that come with a non-biological parental presence. He has helped with homework, been a shuttle service, an off to college and back from college mover, a handyman, a dog walker and an accountant. A few times, he has even had to  dodge the blows of ‘you’re not my Dad!’ He represents a happier future for all of us, and a reminder for me of how good it feels to have a partner again.  

Thank you complete stranger, for the reminder on how far we have come, how far we have all come.

Any more questions? 

Add new comment